May 12, 2017 / 7:37 AM / 4 months ago

M&A and pharma stocks support European shares, but profit miss hits Richemont

MILAN, May 12 (Reuters) - European shares inched higher in early deals on Friday, underpinned by gains among drugmakers and some fresh dealmaking activity, while luxury group Richemont fell on a disappointing earnings update.

Cartier owner Richemont fell 5.6 percent, leading losers in Europe after saying the trading environment would stay volatile after net profit fell more than the market expected.

In spite of the disappointing update from the heavyweight luxury group, results in Europe have been surprisingly strong with 67 percent of companies beating earning expectations, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data. Combined with easing political worries, earnings have helped the pan-European STOXX 600 hit 21-month highs earlier in the week.

By 0714 GMT the STOXX and euro zone blue chips both rose by 0.1 percent, while the UK’s FTSE 100 added 0.2 percent, supported by a 4 percent surge in AstraZeneca following positive trial results from a key immunotherapy drug.

Gains in the British drugmaker helped lift Europe’s healthcare index up 0.8 percent, making it the biggest sectoral gainer in Europe.

United Internet was the biggest gainer on the STOXX, up 9 percent, after saying that it plans to buy a majority stake in mobile operator Drillisch to create a stronger challenger in the German telecoms market.

Reporting by Danilo Masoni

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